Accompanied by the Orchestre de Paris, German-born Israeli-American pianist Menahem Pressler performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595. Conductor: Paavo Järvi. Recorded on October 17, 2012, just before Pressler’s 90th birthday. Pressler passed away on May 6, 2023, aged 99.
Music was his elixir of life: On October 17, 2012, just before his 90th birthday, pianist Menahem Pressler gave a concert in Paris’ Salle Pleyel. With the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi, Pressler played Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595. Nimble fingers even at grand old age – Menahem Pressler is proof that it’s possible. The star pianist was able to look back over a 50-year career. Between 1955 and 2008 he was performing some 100 concerts each year with the Beaux Arts Trio alone. Menahem Pressler passed away on May 6, 2023, aged 99.
Soloist Menahem Pressler (16 December 1923 – 6 May 2023) was born Max Pressler in the German city of Magdeburg. His family is Jewish, and after the Nazis came to power, he fled with his parents in 1939 – initially to Palestine, and then on to the United States in 1940. The members of his family who remained behind were murdered by the Nazis.
In 1946, the young Pressler won the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco, remaining in California thereafter to continue his studies. He founded the world-renowned Beaux Arts Trio in 1955. The ensemble would go on to create over 50 recordings. Numerous musicians comprised the trio up until its final concert, in 2008. Pressler also performed as a soloist throughout his life.
Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi was the musical director of the Orchestre de Paris from 2010 to 2016. Paavo Järvi was born in Tallinn but emigrated to the United States in 1980. For a long time, he was the musical director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and is still in partnership with the ensemble as its Conductor Laureate. He’s been music director and chief conductor of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich since 2019.
The Orchestre de Paris is one of the largest and most respected orchestras in the world. Founded in 1967, it has been led by several conducting greats, including Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim. In 2015, it relocated from the Salle Pleyel to the Philharmonie de Paris in the French capital’s 19th arrondissement.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27
The Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major (K. 595) is the last of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756 – 1791) piano concertos, of a total of 21. He wrote it in 1791, the year of his death. At its premiere in Vienna, Mozart played the solo part himself – it was to be his final public appearance at the piano.
Even though this is the last of Mozart’s piano concertos, the drive to realize new compositional forms is nonetheless still very evident. Echoes of Mozart’s well-known spring composition Komm Lieber Mai… (Longing for the Spring) can be heard in the third movement, the Rondo. Although it’s written in a major key, the piece sounds mournful, infused with a sense of yearning. The composer had fallen on hard times and was hoping to acquire some financial security by producing a large body of work. It was written during a challenging period in Mozart’s life when he was facing financial difficulties and declining health.
With start times in the video:
- (00:18) Allegro
- (14:32) Larghetto
- (22:54) Rondo, Allegro
The first movement of Piano Concerto No. 27 is marked as Allegro, indicating a fast tempo. It begins with a gentle and serene orchestral introduction, characterized by a delicate melody played by the strings. The piano enters with a cadenza-like passage, which sets the stage for the ensuing dialogue between the piano soloist and the orchestra.
The movement follows the traditional sonata form structure, consisting of an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The exposition presents the main musical themes, with the piano taking the lead. Mozart’s genius is evident in the way he weaves intricate melodies and harmonies together, creating a seamless and enchanting musical tapestry.
During the development section, Mozart explores and expands upon the themes introduced in the exposition. He introduces new harmonic and melodic ideas, often juxtaposing contrasting passages to create tension and drama. This section showcases Mozart’s ability to navigate through various tonalities and moods, keeping the listener engaged and captivated.
The recapitulation brings back the themes from the exposition, providing a sense of familiarity and resolution. However, Mozart doesn’t settle for a mere repetition of what has been heard before. He adds embellishments and variations, adding new layers of complexity and beauty to the music. The movement concludes with a brilliant coda, bringing the piece to a satisfying and uplifting close.
The second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595, is marked as Larghetto, indicating a slow and lyrical tempo. This movement is often regarded as one of Mozart’s most sublime and introspective compositions.
The movement opens with a hauntingly beautiful melody presented by the piano soloist. The simple yet poignant theme is accompanied by the delicate and sensitive orchestral accompaniment, which sets a serene and introspective atmosphere. Mozart’s skill in crafting expressive and melodic lines is evident in the graceful and heartfelt nature of this movement.
As the piano continues to develop the initial theme, it ventures into various harmonic territories, exploring subtle tonal shifts and creating moments of both tension and release. The movement showcases Mozart’s mastery of harmonic progression and his ability to evoke a range of emotions through the interplay of melodies and harmonies.
Throughout the movement, there is a sense of introspection and melancholy, as if the music is reflecting the composer’s own struggles and emotions. Mozart’s delicate and nuanced phrasing, as well as the sensitive orchestration, contribute to the overall emotional depth of the movement.
The piano soloist engages in a captivating dialogue with the orchestra, with moments of intimate interplay and tender exchanges. The movement unfolds with a sense of introspective contemplation, drawing the listener into its emotional world.
While the second movement of Piano Concerto No. 27 is primarily characterized by its lyrical and introspective nature, there are also moments of dramatic intensity. These moments serve as a contrast to the overall serenity of the movement, adding further depth and complexity to the musical narrative.
As the movement reaches its conclusion, the initial melody returns, providing a sense of resolution and closure. The music fades away delicately, leaving a lingering sense of beauty and introspection in its wake.
3. Rondo, Allegro
The finale of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 is a lively and spirited Allegro. It serves as a joyful and exuberant finale to this remarkable concerto.
The movement opens with a piano introduction, and the soloist enters a playful dialogue with the orchestra full of energy and anticipation.
The main theme of the movement is characterized by its joyful and buoyant nature. Mozart’s compositional brilliance is evident in the infectious melodies and rhythmic patterns that permeate the movement. The music dances and leaps, exhibiting a sense of effervescence and celebration.
Throughout the movement, Mozart showcases his exceptional ability to combine technical prowess with musicality. The piano soloist dazzles with rapid scales, arpeggios, and intricate passages, while also delivering moments of expressive lyricism.
The dialogue between the piano and the orchestra is dynamic and engaging, with moments of call and response, imitation, and interplay. The orchestra provides a lively and robust accompaniment, enhancing the overall sense of energy and excitement.
In addition to the main theme, Mozart introduces contrasting episodes that provide moments of respite and diversity within the movement. These episodes explore different melodic ideas and tonalities, adding depth and variety to the musical journey.
The movement progresses with a sense of forward momentum, building towards a thrilling and exhilarating conclusion. The soloist and the orchestra engage in a spirited musical exchange, showcasing their technical prowess and musical synergy.
As the movement reaches its climax, Mozart unleashes a flurry of dazzling piano passages, demonstrating his command over the instrument and his ability to create moments of musical fireworks. The concerto concludes with a triumphant and virtuosic flourish, leaving the listener uplifted and invigorated.
- Piano Concerto No. 27 (Mozart) on Wikipedia